Today we celebrate the Native American women at who took part in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
A pre-veterinary student used drones to study beaver dams in Montana. A senior majoring in chemical engineering researched how to make nontoxic batteries. A sophomore in chemistry got a taste of nanomedicine. Three other students examined bacteria from the gut microbiome as part of research to improve diagnostic tests of infectious diseases.
Their projects were different, but the six students who took part in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) had more than one thing in common. All of them were young, female, Native American scientists.
The summer program brings students from universities and colleges across the country to perform cutting-edge research in fields such as biomaterials and nanoscale science and engineering, under the auspices of the National Science Foundation. The 10-week program has grown over the years, said Kathryn Hollar, director of community engagement and diversity outreach at SEAS, and the application process is very competitive. This year, 700 students applied for 70 slots, six of which were taken by Chelsea Draper, Trisheena Kills Pretty Enemy, Kylie Ray Lee, Naomi Redfield, Dominique Pablito, and Racquel White, who together made up the largest group of Native American students yet be enrolled.
“There are many talented Native students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) throughout the country,” said Packineau. “Hopefully, having these students here will increase the visibility that Harvard is an option for them.”
Having more than one Native-American in the program helps keep the students from feeling isolated, alienated, and like token figures, said Packineau. “They’re not singled out as the only Native participant in the program. [They] arrive with a set of peers who have the potential to provide support and share the same background, and, finally, leave Harvard connected to individuals whom they’ll continue to interact with in future academic and professional settings.”